About two and a half weeks ago I was on a plane ride to Los Angeles California where I was fortunate enough to spend time learning and exploring a college called the American Music and Dramatics Academy through their high school conservatory program. While I was there I participated in three different classes taught by working professionals one core class and two elective classes.
My core class was Vocal Contemporary Styles taught by Summer Rona who is a professional singer, songwriter, and piano player who has performed with artists such as Jermaine Jackson, Evan Ross, and Diana Ross. In this class I learned how to take care of your voice, preparations before you sing, breathing techniques, balance muscle and air, perform with a connection and story and so much more. But besides all of the technicalities I did learn that singing is NOT an easy thing to do and it can be very easily underestimated. I also realized that music is so powerful, one song is a story and that story could change someone's mood or someone's day or even bring people closer together for a lifetime. I was challenged to be vulnerable and that’s what performers do. Once you get on stage you’re vulnerable to your audience you're allowing them to hear your own voice and once that is connected to a song that’s how people feel something.
During the two weeks that I was a part of this class I have also made bonds with people I could NEVER forget. The reason why I could never forget the friends I have made in this class is because I got to witness people grow, I got to hear stories that broke my heart, moved me and brought tears to my eyes. I got to see how powerful music is and how it changed every single one of our lives and that is such an amazing thing because everyone around me shared the exact same passion.
My two elective classes were Hip Hop and Improv taught by Donyelle Jones finalist of So You Think You Can Dance and Tom Greene the Improv King. In both these classes I definitely had so much fun, and learned a ton of new things about performing. In Hip Hop class I learned that when you connect with people you're dancing with and make eye contact it makes the performance look and feel 100 times better, and gives the performance some emotion so it doesn’t look like just some fancy dance moves. In Improv I learned that the answer is ALWAYS “Yes, … and” you cannot and are not allowed to say no. You have to work with what your scene partner give you and go from there. What I’ve learned from both of my elective classes is definitely something I can bring back to NPAC and help the cast with in our upcoming shows.
During this trip I received another blessing. While I was at AMDA LA I was given the opportunity to apply and audition for the college. With that I had to go through audition classes in my core class, I learned how to slate and was helped to pick a song that showcased my voice and a monologue that I could perform fairly well. Along with that I learned some tips for auditioning. For example, You should always do your research, which means knowing who your judges are, what you're auditioning for, and that the outcome might not be what you want but you will always have the experience from that audition to carry on to later auditions, and you should always audition for everything for more experience. With everything I learned I put it into action and within 5 days I did my audition and I am now waiting for a letter in the mail with the results of my audition.
Toward the end of this summer conservatory I was able to participate in a final performance where we got to showcase our talents one last time on AMDA LA’s black box theater stage. Some of my experiences with preparing for the show were exactly like how I would prepare for a show in NPAC. We had a tech rehearsal where patience is always key when you’re standing on stage while light technicians figure out your light cue and write it down for every single song. We also had a dress rehearsal the day of the show where each performer is responsible to know what mic they use, the placement of their props, and the side of the stage they come out on and if they don't they have to go without one and Improvise. Performing on that stage was such a rush. I got to sing the song “Ooh Baby Baby” by Linda Ronstadt with my own back up singers and live accompanist.
Overall this trip has been such a memorable experience. I was also fortunate enough to visit some of the famous spots in California like Ahmanson Theater where we watched Matilda the musical, Santa Monica Pier where it reminded me of Waikiki with a giant carnival, The Hollywood Walk of Fame where I took a pictures of some famous stars such as Shakira, Paul Mccartney, Queen Latifah. and Johnny Depp, and got to visit Trader Joe's the most healthiest store I have ever been in.
With everything that has happened during this trip some of the challenges were definitely being 2,479 miles away from Hawaii, being independent and not replying on my mom for everything, dealing with the 85 degree heat, and being able to work with people who are the exact opposite of me. Through this experience I have definitely learned some life lessons, I now know that I can travel alone and not get lost, I know how college life is not gonna be easy and you have to be responsible for yourself and also education is so important when you want to get into a career that you love to do for the rest of your life.
I cannot express how much being a part of the Nanakuli Performing Arts Center has prepared me for this experience and my career in the future. Everything I did in the conservatory program and my preparation for it came from my experience in NPAC. I wouldn't have been able to say “I want to be a performer” If it wasn’t for this program. Through the program I found my voice and what I want to do for the rest of my life and if it wasn’t for and everyone who helped me raise money to go I wouldn’t have been able to go on this trip at all.